Author(s): Matthew Benns
"They put the boys into the Anvil mining truck. They came for my dad. I asked them 'where are you taking him?' and they didn't answer."
The Australian mining company trucks had come roaring into the African village and disgorged over 100 heavily armed government soldiers. The rebels, protesting at the way the Australian company was mining the Congolese silver and copper without giving anything back to the local community, had already surrendered. But their looting of food and fuel from the Anvil Mining depot at Kilwa could not go unanswered. The Australians flew in the government troops, loaded them onto their trucks and then stood back while they rounded up the rebellion's 'sympathisers'. "We started running but the soldiers caught and searched our belongings, they arrested my dad and two other boys," said Albert Kitanika. The soldiers refused to say where they were taking his father. "They took him 50 metres down the road where they shot and stabbed him to death." A United Nations investigation found Mr Kitanika was one of at least 100 people summarily executed in the government operation in 2004. Afterwards the Australian company issued a press release praising the government for its rapid response. Asked about its role in transporting the troops, Anvil's chief executive officer Bill Turner said: "So what."
Mining is a dirty business. This book reveals that the real dirt lies in the boardrooms of some of Australia's biggest companies. The United Nations named Katumba Mwanke, an adviser to Congo President Joseph Kabila, as one of the people responsible for the illegal exploitation of Congo's natural wealth. Anvil Mining put Mr Mwanke on the board of directors for three years. The Australian company has steadfastly refused to sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, designed to prevent dodgy deals, and is instead considering a tie-up with British mining company Trafigura, which is responsible for one of the worst pollution scandals in recent history. When details of deaths arising from Trafigura's illegal dumping of tonnes of sulphur-contaminated toxic waste were raised, Trafigura attempted to stifle reports in the British Parliament with a super-injunction. Anvil Mining is just one of many Australian mining companies whose dubious operating methods have been called into question both at home and overseas. This is not a dry business book. This is a story of a greed that has defined a nation. It will take us from the earliest mining scams and scandals to the pollution of the present day. It is a story of how communities in Australia and across the world have risen up to fight for their land. And it will tell how rich men in boardrooms in major Australian cities thousands of kilometres away have forged dirty deals to sweep them aside. It will tell us just who those men are and what drives them. Newspaper and television reports merely scratch the surface.
The true story of Australia's mining industry needs to be told dramatically and in full. It is a book every Australian needs to read because it is the story of our national wealth and how those who have access to it are abusing the privilege.
Matthew Benns is the author of When the Bough Breaks and The Men Who Killed Qantas.